As a Jewish mother, I always wondered when my children would start to ask questions about the holidays. More specifically, I was curious if they would ask why we did not celebrate Christmas.
As a child growing up, my friends were always jealous of me. They thought it was so much fun since Chanukah was celebrated for eight days. Eight times the presents is likely what they thought! From time to time, they would come over and light our menorah with us. It was also a lot of fun playing the dreidel game with piles of M&Ms for everyone.
My parents have always put up decorations for the Festival of Lights. When in elementary school, I was also the child that refused to complete art projects that had to do with Christmas. I was not being disrespectful, quite the opposite. I was proud of my Jewish roots and wanted to make something special for my family and our holiday. Still, I must admit I always thought it was so neat to decorate a Christmas tree and go caroling (which I often did with my neighborhood best friend)
NHL is eight and now seems to be mostly unfazed with the constant reminders of Christmas when out and about. He understands that the majority of his friends at school celebrate this day with their families and we do not. Of course, three years ago this was not the case. While in kindergarten, NHL asked my husband and me why we did not celebrate Christmas. We told him that we are Jewish and because of this we do not celebrate. At the time, he seemed to accept that, but days later we realized it was not the case.
While wandering around one of the malls, NHL asked to go into where Santa was sitting. It looked like fun and he wanted to be able to check it out. We explained to him that we are Jewish and do not get photos with Santa. The string of why questions that resulted floored us. NHL was observant and saw that Christmas decorations were in every store, around the homes outside, and songs for the holiday were playing constantly.
When at school, there were children that tried to tell NHL that Christmas was better than Chanukah. My heart sank for my son. Being in the minority this time of year is rough for children. I wanted to shield him from this. I asked what he said. My smart little boy said that Christmas and Chanukah were both special. He told the other child that he liked Chanukah because we light our menorah, sing songs, eat with our family, and get some presents.
To help, most years I ask NHL’s teachers if I can send in some dreidels and chocolate to play the dreidel game, along with some fun new Chanukah music. I think it is important that NHL shares his traditions with his classmates. Once again, I plan to do this with NHL’s third grade class. His new classmates need to hear how we celebrate Chanukah to expand their understanding of others.
What I was not expecting came from my four year old. JSL is constantly talking about Santa. He’s obsessed with chatter about the jolly fellow and wants to know why he can’t see him, why he isn’t coming to our house, and on and on. The nice thing this time around, big brother NHL reminds him about our Jewish faith and will often read him a Chanukah book to settle down the list of Christmas whys.
Do you talk to your children about different holidays that are celebrated during this season and beyond?
Parts of this post were previously used on another project, but new additions have been made to update things